Strings of clam shell beads were used as money

Lesson 7: Leadership & Trading

Lesson 1
The Land
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Hunting &

Lesson 5
Clothing & Appearance
Lesson 6
Ceremonies & Beliefs
Lesson 7
Leadership & Trading
Lesson 8
Final Project

Student Guide


Read the information about Leadership & Trading

Look at all pictures on this page.
Be sure to click on any links or words that are underlined.

Find the answers to the following research questions.
Write your answers on
Student Worksheet 7

1. What are three responsibilities the leader has?

2. What was used as money?

3. What did the tribe give for trading?

4. What did the tribe receive?

5. Why was trading important?


Extend your thinking! Click on
the activity below:
Let's Make a Deal!




Each Bay Miwok village had a leader. The leader was responsible for seeing that no one in the village went hungry or homeless. He was in charge of making decisions and acted as a judge and solved problems that occured . He decided when the time was right for villagers to leave their village to gather acorns and when to have feasts. The leader was known to take a leading part in war and participated in hunting and the making of tools like the rest of the men in the village.

The position of the leader was usually passed down from father to son. The leader's children had to marry someone from another village. This made sure that there would be relatives in many places so there wouldn't be any wars.


Trading took place all over California, and items of trade passed along the different trade
routes from one village to the next. Some of the goods traded had certain values. Trade items were exchanged for other items of equal value. When a tribe member had no items to trade but needed something, they used small strings of shells for money.

Here is an example of shell bead value:

A bow, five strings of beads
A ceremonial basket, ten strings of beads

Different areas of California had items that were valued all across the state. Traders traveled great distances to trade. Tribes that lived in the mountains had different natural resources than those that lived along the coast or in the valleys. Mountain tribes had excellent trees for making items out of wood, such as bows and arrows, and they had many different minerals and rocks. Valley tribes had large animal hides and many resources to make baskets. The coastal tribes had fish, shells and salt. So...each tribe had something that another tribe needed.

The Mt. Diablo area provided the Bay Miwok with many valued trading goods. The main trading partners of the Bay Miwok were probably the Ohlone and the Yokuts. They traded animal hides, baskets, bows and arrows, mortars and pestles for other things they needed like Ohlone mussels, abalone shells, salt, cinnabar, dried abalone, and olivella shells, and Yokut pine nuts and rabbitskin blankets. Obsidian rock from the northern mountains was especially wanted for arrowheads and knife blades. It was wanted by most California tribes and was the most valuable rock for trading.

Besides trading with other tribes, the Bay Miwok also traded with themselves. Tribelets rich in acorns or
salmon or seeds or skins shared with other tribelets and visitors. The feasting, trading, and sharing
among the various tribelets within the Bay Miwok territory ensured that no Bay Miwok tribelet would
ever starve.

The Bay Miwok men tatooed lines on their arms to measure their beads of money and wore the clamshell bead necklances around their necks to show their wealth. To show their respect for the dead, beads were thrown in graves. By doing so, this controlled the amount of money that was available at one time.




Obsidian was used to make arrowheads. The Bay Miwok had to trade with other tribes to get obsidian.

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